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US planes keep distance from Chinese 'islands' — for now

Aerial photograph taken from a military aircraft on May 11, 2015 shows alleged on-going reclamation by China on Mischief Reef in the Spratly group of islands in the South China SeaUS surveillance aircraft and naval ships have yet to test China’s territorial claims around artificial islands built in the South China Sea, but the Pentagon warned that could be “the next step”. Although the United States does not recognise China’s claims of sovereignty around the man-made structures, American P-8 surveillance planes and naval vessels patrolling the area have not ventured within 12 nautical miles of the artificial islands — the standard territorial zone around natural land. US officials have said they are weighing sending warships and surveillance aircraft within 12 nautical miles of the man-made islands in the South China Sea to test Beijing’s controversial territorial claims.

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